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SERMON XV.

ON THE WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT.

ON THE EIGHTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.

ROMANS VIII, 16, 17.

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we

are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him,

The point, on which the text mentions a testimony given, is of no minor importance. Place all we have, or all we can hope to have here, place the whole world in the scale against it, and all will weigh as nothing; all will be “ lighter than vanity itself.” What, indeed, is the whole world, what is this life itself, in comparison with the blessed hope of everlasting life? Nay, more, what would they be without this hope? How unimportant, to many how wearisome their existence in this transitory scene, if they were unable to look beyond it; if they knew that they were only to fret away a few short and troubled

years, and then be “confounded with the beasts that perish.” Often in the hours of listlessness, and justly in the visitations of calamity, they might exclaim, “ Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, or life unto the bitter in soul"?” Even to those whose lot might be cast in the happiest state which this earth can boast, how cheerless, how humiliating would be the reflection, that every day is rapidly bringing them to their grave, and that, after having enjoyed their pleasures for a time, which will appear but “as a span long,” they must mingle with the dust, from which they were taken, and be consigned to eternal oblivion. Life, with these views, must be regarded as a gift scarcely to be wished; it must be considered, if not miserable, at least unimportant.

If then, the picture of life, contemplated even in this light, be gloomy and uninteresting, how will its darkest shades be deepened, and rendered dreadful, when it is regarded, as leading to a state, not merely of oblivion, but of punishment. How awful, how overwhelming would be the persuasion, that we had irreparably offended an all-seeing and all

a Job iii. 20.

powerful God; and, after death, had nothing to expect, but an eternity of sorrow and suffering.

Yet, my brethren, we are plainly taught in the Scriptures, that this life is but a part, and a most insignificant part of our existence; we are taught that there is to be another life, in which the wicked will be assigned their portion with the devil and his angels; and in which the “ children of God” will inherit“ the kingdom prepared for them from the beginning of the world.”

With these prospects, with this awful contrast between the future state of the wicked and that of the good, constantly set forth to our consideration, it is by no means unimportant to our tranquillity in this life, as well as to our salvation in the next, that we should understand, whether, and upon what ground, we may hope to be classed as “children of God." Hence we should receive with thankfulness, and consider with attention, any testimony which the Scriptures may offer, and by which this point may be satisfactorily ascertained. Such a testimony is placed before us in the text, wherein the Apostle affirms that the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.

It is here stated that the “ Spirit beareth

witness;" but it is not stated in what manner he beareth witness. And since, as we have already observed, this testimony relates to a most momentous point, a point in which our present happiness, and our hopes of future blessings are essentially involved; it may naturally be supposed, that the minds of men would be often anxiously turned to this testimony of the Spirit. Such is the fact. Various sects and individuals have maintained various opinions; and have endeavoured, according to their several judgments, prejudices, or imaginations, to describe the marks by which this testimony of the Spirit may be discerned, as well as to infer the consequences

, of its being possessed.

Some have maintained, that this witness of the Spirit is a direct assurance conveyed from God to the mind of the recipient, and distinguishable by certain perceptible impulses. Some enthusiasts have even pretended to manifest these impulses to their brethren, by convulsions, groanings, and similar supposed methods of denoting spiritual workings. And many have maintained, that when the witness of the Spirit, (be it what it may,) mentioned in the text, has been given, they are children of God, and can never fail of the inheri

tance.

These opinions appear to me at variance with the plain and general tenor of the Scriptures, and to be irreconcileable with what has been revealed to us, respecting the nature and the dispensations of God. They may be made the source of delusions and errors of the most mischievous and dangerous description. What, then, this witness of the Spirit really is, I shall endeavour to shew in this discourse, of which the text has, for this ,

purpose, been selected from the epistle appointed for the day.

The first consideration, which suggests itself to us is, in what sense are we to understand that the Spirit may be said to bear witness that we are the children of God. With respect to this witness being perceptible, by certain internal impulses, we deny that the Scriptures authorise any such expectation in the present day, whatsoever might have been the case in the earlier ages of the Christian Church. And with respect to the convulsions, groanings, and contortions, which have been set forth as indications of spiritual influences, or. pangs of the New Birth; it is sufficient to

; observe, that they are just as much, and no more entitled to credit, as proofs of the agency of the Spirit, than the similar convulsions and groanings which were exhibited by the crafty

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